WE may be increasingly turning to ‘Dr Google’ these days, and are constantly reminded of how stretched and resource-starved our health services have become — but that doesn’t mean we should automatically try and avoid seeing a doctor for a check-up.
Getting symptoms checked is not just a case of getting a diagnosis — often it’s about that vital reassurance that you don’t need to worry.
Of course, it’s important to note that these things don’t automatically mean you have a disease, and many of them are very common and can occur due to other, harmless, causes.
“An acetone smell on breath can be a sign of diabetes,” says GP Dr Laurence Gerlis.
This is because it’s an indication of ketosis.
“We produce ketones from breaking down fat when we can’t use sugar due to lack of insulin.”
This can be an indication of underactive thyroid.
“Slow metabolism from an underactive thyroid can cause these symptoms,” notes Gerlis.
Known as a ‘butterfly’ rash, this can be a telltale sign of the autoimmune condition, lupus, says Gerlis.
“[This could indicate] Wilson’s disease with copper deposits,” says Gerlis.
“An error in metabolism means excess copper in the blood causes circular rings in the eyes.”
As well as skin, when the whites of the eye appear a little yellow, this can be a sign of jaundice.
“A build up of bile in the blood gets deposited into the whites of the eyes,” Gerlis explains.
Nails can reveal a number of things about our health, and as Gerlis explains, pitted nails may sometimes be a sign of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Skin disorders can “affect nail growth”, he adds.
Sometimes referred to as ‘clubbing’, Gerlis points out that when the tips of the fingers are swollen it can be a symptom of lung disease.
“Lung disease or lung cancer causes overgrowth of blood vessels in tips of fingers,” he explains.
If skin is cold and clammy and a person’s experiencing cold sweats, this can be a warning sign of sepsis, or a diabetic hypoglycaemic attack.
“Patients produce adrenaline to keep blood sugar up, which causes a sensation of cold sweat,” explains Gerlis.
If a patient is experiencing a distressing itch with no obvious skin cause, this can be a sign of primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), also known as primary biliary cirrhosis, an autoimmune disease of the liver.
“It’s a slow progressive disease that causes damage to the liver which is irreversible,” explains Dr Ross Perry, GP and dermatologist.
“Symptoms often include excessive sleepiness and itching, with more severe cases developing jaundice.”
Dr Perry notes this can be an indication of an overactive thyroid.
Thinning of the hair and distorted or overgrown nails can also be signs.
Known as dermatitis herpetiformis, Perry says this can be an indication of gluten intolerance.
Though fatigue and paleness are most commonly associated with anaemia or lack of iron, Perry points out that dry, cracked lips — “especially at the corners of the mouth” — can also be a sign.